10 Years of Blog Archive

Monday, September 28, 2015

Feria Libre Tours 'Unsettling' in Cuenca Ecuador

Feria Libre, the largest outdoor market in Cuenca Ecuador. Is it a “tourist” haunt?  Not exactly.   A lot of poor people shop there.  It is where you would shop if you’re poor or on a budget.  It is where the poor shop.  No way around it, if you can afford more you don’t shop at Feria Libre.  Why would you?  If you have to pay someone to take you to Feria Libre, and your comparison is Supermaxi, you’re out of your league. 
Feria Libre outdoor vendors
Why do we say this?  Well first off, Supermaxi is not THE comparison for the rest of the shopping in the city.  If you’re not already shopping around at all the other markets in town, then how are you going to know if you’re actually saving any money?  Honestly anyone that has to pay someone to take them to Cuenca’s Feria Libre outdoor Mercado should not be shopping there.  The locals don’t pay anyone to take them there, and we’ve never ever paid anyone to take us there.  And we never would.

Poor people don't shop at Supermaxi, and don't use it as their comparison either.

Vendors weren’t born yesterday.  They’re going to see that you don’t speak a lick of Spanish, and they will take advantage of that.  And if you have to pay someone to go with you every single time, then you surely won’t ever be even near saving any money.  We shop there because we’re a family of five adults and our household lives on $1000 per month total.

This smacks of inappropriate tourism profiteering in a place that it does not belong.  People that are spending money just to be taken there, to Feria Libre outdoor Mercado, are not going to have a clue as to what prices they should be paying and more importantly, not paying.

On top of that, the selling is volume based, meaning that the savings are on large amounts of food, i.e. five or ten pounds of tomatoes at a time, etc.  Is a retired couple really going to need that much food? Smaller packages just don’t provide enough savings worth paying anyone to take you there.  See?

We are a frugal family.  We live well on small means.  Part of that is being diligent shoppers, which means actually knowing what everything is supposed to sell for on a local price.  And that includes all stores all over town.  Supermaxi is not our benchmark.  The whole city is.  Every store in town is a potential place to save money, and we’re well aware where all the best bargains are.

There is a certain vegetable that we won’t mention, gringos are putting on forums where to go at Feria Libre to buy it, because there aren’t many places to buy this particular vegetable.  Well guess what, I went to that lady to buy and she’s selling for a 100% markup to the local price.  I asked the lady to sell to me for less but she said she didn’t have to because the gringos are paying her price.  I later found that same vegetable in another stall that is not known on the forums, and I paid half of the gringo price. And that’s the way we do things.  Gringo prices are for tourists, not residents, i.e. locals.

Once  a new Mercado in Cuenca Ecuador was advertised in the Gringo press.  We went there just because we’re diligent and want to know everything that’s going on around town.  Well guess what, the prices were gringo prices, the highest in town on almost everything for sale.  Needless to say we never went back to that Mercado.

Will this happen to Feria Libre? Now that people are taking “tours”?  We hope not.  We sincerely hope that people on a budget and the local people will at least have some places in town left, where they can go shop for their large families, and not have to pay u.s. prices.  Please people.  Use some thought and consideration.  Thank you.

Frank, Angie and sons 

If you liked this article, we think you'll like these ones too!
 We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!


  1. I saw these advertised as well and was surprised but not really concerned that overall prices will change. I think that FL is too big for that. In any case, I live on the other side of town and shop at 27 de Febrero. It isn't as cheap as FL but is way better than Supermaxi. One thing that would be valuable would be a list of what local prices are .. would you be willing to post that? I try to negotiate with vendors but sometimes they won't budge, even though I know that their prices are high. At that point, I walk away and go to the next stall. Peace ... TJ

  2. Hi TJ.
    That you walk away and go to the next stall...is what negotiating is all about...glad to hear it. As to price lists, we go into detail on how to figure out if you're overpaying and what local prices should be, in the DIYCuencaLandingGuide, and our readers of the guide don't ever ask for price list. The vendors should mark their prices like they do in several other South American outdoor markets that we've seen. Cuenca Mercados are unique in that respect that prices aren't listed, and that is the foundation of the problem. Nobody should want to shop in these mercados and pay u.s. prices. I know I don't.


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